If you need is to release the scent of herbs, incense is a time-honored way to do so. Incenses, in one form or another, have been used as long as spirituality has existed. There are two basic forms of incense: self-igniting and non-self-igniting. Both have their benefits, though one definitely has more drawbacks than the other.
The best and most effective incense will always be the non-self-igniting type. This kind of incense is most easily prepared by simply grinding the herbs you need in a mortar and pestle. After mixing the herbs in accordance with your needs and perhaps the recipe you're following, you simply burn the resulting mixture on charcoal disks. This is the most effective type of incense and is certainly worth a little time grinding up herbs. Charcoal disks are fairly inexpensive, so this method can be cost effective as well.
You can, if you like, use a pure wood powder as a base and add essential oils and other extractions. This works much like the non-self-igniting incense in that it has to be burned atop charcoal disks. I don't generally recommend this type of incense because it is much harder to prepare, but it is certainly an option.
Self-igniting incense is another story entirely. Fair warning: I really do not like self-igniting incense. Most of it is little better than scented sawdust and saltpeter. It burns all right, but because it uses very little actual herb, it has no real medicinal or magickal value. Even if you can manage to create an incense that is mostly herb and saltpeter, the saltpeter interferes with the scent of the herbs, thereby making it less effective than non-self-igniting incense. And most certainly you should not use self-igniting incense you find in stores. Smells great, yes, but it's worthless. If you want self-igniting incense, experiment with saltpeter and herbs until you find a mixture you like.
Then we come to the matter of incense sticks. Though sticks are convenient, NEVER buy them from a store. Almost without exception these sticks are made of resin and fragrance oils (at least in North America and most of Europe). Since fragrance oils do not have the properties of essential oils (which comes from the natural herb), they are useless for your magickal or medicinal work. Now if they made them from essential oils...but this is rarely done because the cost would be astronomical. If you can buy the incense sticks for a quarter a piece, they're certainly made with fragrance oils no matter what the sales person says.
So what about making them yourself? Well, it's possible. I have had some success dipping my own incense sticks in a mixture of resin and essential oils. I've used both wooden sticks and charcoal sticks, and both have their benefits. The wooden sticks are cleaner, but the charcoal sticks produce a superior scent (but they do make a mess). So you can certainly make your own stick incense that will work for your purposes, but be aware that this is a time consuming process. Finished sticks will have to dry for a few days (don't try to quicken this process in an oven) so you won't be able to use them immediately. Still, the process can be a fun craft if you're in to that sort of thing.
The best way to make incense is simply to grind the herbs and burn them (even by throwing them into a fire instead of using charcoal disks). There are other methods, obviously, but in this case, simple is best. Experiment, if you like, but don't skip over the easiest and most effective method for preparing incense.
Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.